Author: Alan Decker
And now… A STAR TRAKS SPECIAL EVENT! STARRING THE CASTS OF STAR TRAKS AND STAR TRAKS: THE VEXED GENERATION
Of Gods and First Officers
“Captain’s log. Stardate 52687.3. Well, the good news is that we’re getting rid of Commander Dillon for a couple of weeks. The bad news is that I don’t think his replacement is going to be any better. Yes, Starfleet, in their ever infinite wisdom, has decided to continue with the First Officer Exchange Program. FOEP, god that sounds bad, anyway, FOEP is supposed to help us learn new skills and ways of doing things. In reality, I get stuck with some new guy who doesn’t know how I operate while Dillon gets to piss off a entire new ship of people. Well…not entirely new. This time around, the exchange is between us and the USS Explorer. I just hope they’ve forgiven us finally for that whole ‘purposely sending them into the Bermuda Expanse to get lost in the Delta Quadrant’ thing. Some people can really hold a grudge.”
Captain Alexander Rydell walked with Commander Travis Dillon as they headed towards the Secondprize transporter room. He figured he might as well greet Commander Conway as soon as he beamed aboard.
“Bridge to Rydell,” Lieutenant Commander Emily Sullivan’s voice called over the comm system.
“Yo,” Rydell said.
“I’m here. Just start talking.”
“Right. We just detected the Explorer. We should be at the rendezvous point momentarily.”
“Great. How are we running?”
“Fifteen minutes late,” Sullivan said. “As usual.”
“Would it kill us to be on time for once?” Dillon asked.
“Are you the captain?” Rydell said. “No. And I have an image to uphold.”
“Laxest captain in the fleet,” Sullivan said.
“Five years running,” Rydell said. “Hail the Explorer and tell Commander Conway we’re anxiously awaiting his arrival.”
“I really hate lying. Can’t I just tell him to get his butt over here?”
“If it makes you feel better. Rydell out.”
“I certainly hope the crew will show Conway the same respect they show me,” Dillon said. “He is a guest.”
“We’ll try to up our standards then,” Rydell said. He entered the transporter room, followed by Dillon. Lieutenant Monica Vaughn was manning the transporter. Her face spread into a seductive grin as soon as she saw Rydell.
“Captain, what a pleasant surprise,” she said, slinking around the console and over to him. “When are we going to have that dinner you promised me?”
“Lieutenant, that uniform top is at least two sizes too small,” Dillon said disapprovingly.
“Do you mind, Captain?” Vaughn asked.
“Not at all,” Rydell replied. “Everyone should be allowed to express themselves.”
“We have uniforms for a reason,” Dillon said.
“Tell you what, Monica,” Rydell said. “Why don’t you come down to Seven Backward at the end of your shift, and we’ll have a drink.”
“Mmm…sounds nice. I like my drinks strong.”
“About as strong as you’re coming on to me, I’d imagine,” Rydell said.
“Captain! Our relationship is strictly professional. I’m only out to help your mental welfare.”
“How noble,” Dillon commented.
“Can I beam him out of here yet?” Vaughn asked.
“The Explorer isn’t here yet,” Rydell replied.
Her console beeped, drawing Vaughn’s attention back to her work.
“You really should not consort with the crew in such a fashion,” Dillon said softly. “It sets a bad example.”
“Right. This from the man who sleeps with our tactical officer.”
“That’s different. I’m not the captain,” Dillon said defensively. “And our relationship isn’t about meaningless sex.”
“Your loss,” Rydell said smiling. “Seriously, Dillon. I can handle my own love life…and Vaughn. She’s harmless.”
“I doubt Ensign Graham agrees with you. He spent a day in sickbay and requested a transfer after a night with her.”
“That’s what makes her so charming,” Rydell said.
“The Explorer is ready to transport,” Vaughn said.
“That’s your cue,” Rydell said.
“I’d like to stay and say a few words to Commander Conway,” Dillon said.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Rydell asked. “Last time you two met in person, you were strangling each other.”
“Not our faults. It was a brawl.”
“Oh. Of course. Well, tell the Explorer to energize, Lieutenant.”
“I’ve got him in my grasp,” Vaughn said.
“And let’s be a bit more subtle when Conway gets here. I don’t want to scare him in the first thirty seconds,” Rydell said.
“Whatever you say,” Vaughn said as Commander Conway materialized on the transporter padd. He stepped off and extended his hand to shake with Captain Rydell.
“Commander David Conway reporting for duty,” Conway said.
“Welcome aboard,” Rydell said. “We’ve been looking forward to it. It should be a nice change of pace for you.”
“Assuming you can avoid choking anyone,” Dillon muttered.
“Excuse me,” Conway said.
“Commander Travis Michael Dillon. We’ve met.”
“Yeah. I remember,” Conway said coldly.
“As do I. But we’ve got more pressing business to attend to. I expect you to perform up to my standards.”
“Your standards,” Conway said, growing angry. “What the hell…”
“I don’t know how you run things on the Explorer, but the Secondprize is an entirely different ship. We have a reputation to uphold.”
“That’s for sure,” Rydell said.
“I just expect you to follow Starfleet protocol to the letter,” Dillon said.
“You’ll be the only one,” Rydell added.
“With all due respect, sir, you aren’t helping,” Dillon said.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” Conway said. “You’ve got some nerve, you pencil-necked lousy excuse for a command officer. I can more than handle things on this ship. As for your reputation, I don’t think I could do any more damage than you’ve done on your own.”
“Don’t make me start pulling out mission reports on you,” Dillon said. “The Explorer is a traveling specter of doom.”
“Gentlemen,” Rydell said. “Let’s save the fountains of adoration for later. You’ve got a ship to catch, Commander.”
“I’ll have them whipped into shape in no time,” Dillon said, stepping up on the padd.
“Just like you did for us, I’m sure,” Vaughn said.
“Energize,” Rydell said tiredly.
“So long, sugar-buns,” Vaughn said as Dillon dematerialized. She blew him a kiss as he seethed with anger.
“Sorry about that, Commander,” Rydell said, leading Conway out into the hall. “Dillon gets a little possessive at times.”
“I’ll see you tonight, sir,” Vaughn called after him.
“It’s a date,” Rydell said just as the doors closed.
“So you two are seeing each other?” Conway asked.
“No no. She just wants to have sex,” Rydell said. “Let me give you the tour.”
Just a couple of minutes earlier, Captain Andy Baxter watched his first officer beam over to the Secondprize and waited for Commander Dillon to beam aboard. Dr. Janice Browning ducked her head into the transporter room.
“Is he gone?” Browning asked.
“Like the wind,” Baxter replied.
“Thank god. This is going to be a great two weeks.”
“Great two weeks? Are you insane?” Baxter said. “Do you know who we’re getting?”
“So?” Browning asked. “Anything’s got to be better than the master of moodiness we’re used to.”
“Wrong. Commander Travis Dillon is…he’s…I can’t explain it. You just have no idea what we’re in for, Janice. You never served with him.”
“He can’t be that bad. Besides, you probably just didn’t like him because you were under him. Now, you’re the captain. Where’s the problem?”
“You’re just going to have to learn this lesson for yourself,” Baxter said as Dillon started to appear on the transporter padd.
“Why in the world did you want to come down here?” Rydell said as he and Conway wormed their way through the various conduits and junction boxes on the bottom deck of the Secondprize.
“Curiosity, I guess. See where the captain came from.”
“Well, these were his quarters,” Rydell said, showing Conway a lone set of doors in the cramped corridor. “I would have moved him, but I didn’t even know he existed until right before he got the transfer,” Rydell said.
“Starfleet tries to hide inventory personnel,” Conway said. “The Explorer’s got a set of quarters just like this at the bottom. Regulation inventory officer housing.”
“Yeah, well let’s get out of here,” Rydell said. “The radiation signs are making me nervous.”
“So who lives there now?” Conway asked as they made their way back to the turbolift.
“No one,” Rydell said.
“Starfleet didn’t assign you another inventory officer?”
“Nope. Well…to be honest, I skipped a bit of the paperwork. They still think Lieutenant Andy Baxter is our inventory officer.”
“Starfleet thinks there are two Andy Baxters?” Conway asked in disbelief.
“I guess. Never much thought about it,” Rydell said.
“Very interesting,” Conway said. He’d have to file that information away for later. Surely, he could find some use for it.
“How about we go get a cup of coffee or something?” Rydell said, pulling Conway out of his thoughts with the temptation of the brew that sustained Conway’s existence.
“Now you’re talking,” Conway said, rubbing hands together. “What do you have?”
“We used to have a great machine down in the mess hall, but I had to give it to some Klingons a couple of years ago,” Rydell said. “We’ve got a pretty nice selection in Seven Backward, though. And Ensign Carr has become quite the coffee connoisseur.”
“I like this ship already.”
“Captain’s log. Stardate 52687.8. After our brief detour to exchange Conway for Commander Travis Dillon, we’re continuing on our course to Starbase 195 to drop of the archaeological team we picked up from the ruins of Bournas Six. So far, Commander Dillon has spent his time walking around the ship to get his bearings and sitting in Conway’s office familiarizing himself with the crew roster. I haven’t had a single complaint about his behavior yet, but I don’t expect the quiet to last. Therefore, I’ve decided to have a chat with Dillon to head off any problems before they start.”
“Come in,” Baxter said upon hearing the door chime of his ready room sound. He put his model of the Secondprize he’d been idly playing with back onto its stand. Dillon entered a second later.
“You wished to see me, sir?” Dillon said stiffly.
“Have a seat, Commander,” Baxter said, waving at the chair across from his desk as he took a seat himself. “How’s everything going?”
“Fine,” Dillon said, settling into the chair he’d been offered. “I think I’ve pretty much covered the basics on everyone.”
“Yes. I wanted to get to know as much about your crew and their personalities as possible before I start interacting with them. I wish to avoid any mishaps such as the one that occurred a few months ago on the Secondprize when we rescued your crew.”
“Of course,” Baxter said. “Funny you should mention that.”
“I have yet to get an apology,” Baxter said.
“From who?” Dillon said. Hints of annoyance were starting to tug at the back of his brain.
“How about you? You helped send us off to what was supposed to be our deaths!”
“It wasn’t like that,” Dillon said.
“No? Tell that to the crew I lost in the Delta Quadrant!”
“You want to know what really happened?”
“Oh please, enlighten me,” Baxter said sarcastically.
“I suggested to Captain Rydell that we eliminate the inventory department.”
“Exactly. I was the inventory department, and you wanted me dead!” Baxter shouted, rising from his seat.
“No!” Dillon insisted. “I talked to Captain Rydell, who agreed with me…for once. Jaroch concurred, so we contacted Starfleet. Next thing we know, we receive a coded message from Admiral Neilson’s office asking if we’d like for you to get a transfer.”
“And you said yes,” Baxter said, calming down slightly.
“It was nothing personal,” Dillon said. “Inventory is just a reviled job.”
“Tell me about it. Do you know what it’s like to constantly have people cringing at your approach? Wait…I guess you do.”
“Inventory is necessary. If it weren’t for people like me, this fleet would have nothing left!”
“How many inventory officers do you have on the Explorer?” Dillon asked.
“Come on, Baxter. I’ve just been through your personnel records.”
“None! Okay! I’ve just been signing filled out forms and sending them to Starfleet myself! Are you happy?”
“So, in order to avoid inventory officers, you’ve been lying to Starfleet.”
“Well, yeah. I guess.”
“We tried to go through proper channels. Admiral Neilson was the one who promoted you to captain and gave you the Aerostar. You think Captain Rydell has that kind of authority?”
“Well, no. I guess not.”
“See. It wasn’t us! We didn’t try to kill anybody!” Dillon said, slamming his fist down on the desk. “You shouldn’t even be captain, you…you…captain!” Dillon seethed, narrowly avoiding insubordination.
“That really rankles you, doesn’t it, Dillon? Here I am, younger than you and in command of one of the most advanced ships in the fleet, while you’re still stuck on the Secondprize,” Baxter said, twisting the psychological knife lodged in Dillon’s skull.
“Yeah it does!” Dillon said, leaping out of his chair. He started rapidly pacing up and down the carpet. “You shouldn’t even have lived. Dumb luck! Your entire record is one long list of mistakes and violations.”
“Us? What about that microshuttle you left in the 20th century. We cleaned up after you on that one!”
“What?” Dillon said, his voice growing louder and louder. “You mean when you let a hostile alien species almost obliterate Earth and allowed two members of the government of the time find out about your existence? Or how about when your ship was responsible for a Borg invasion of several Delta Quadrant cultures? Or when you invaded my mind!”
“We were trying to send a message!” Baxter shouted. “You were the only one we could reach!”
“So? That was my brain you were running around in! It’s private!”
“I didn’t want to be there. Those thoughts about you, Lieutenant Commander Hawkins, and the banana cream pies made me absolutely sick to my stomach. I had nightmares for weeks.”
“God, I want to hurt you!”
“Just try it.”
“It’s against regulations.”
“Forget em. It’s just the two of us. People. No ranks. You want a shot at me? Go ahead. Get your ass out of the rulebook long enough to sock me one,” Baxter taunted.
“Against…regulations,” Dillon said, his whole body trembling as he tried to control his fists. He turned toward the door to leave.
“See…I knew you wouldn’t…”
Baxter didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence as Dillon suddenly spun around and clocked him. Baxter fell back into his chair as Dillon stormed out of the ready room, clutching his hurt fist.
“What do you think happened in there?” Counselor Kelly Peterman asked from her seat on the bridge as she saw Dillon storm out of the ready room and march into a turbolift.
“The captain and Commander Dillon had an extended argument, which ended when Captain Baxter asked Commander Dillon to punch him, which he did,” Lieutenant Commander Kristen Larkin said from the command chair next to Peterman.
“He punched Andy!” Peterman cried rushing to the ready room. The doors whooshed open, and she saw Baxter cradling his jaw painfully.
“What happened?” she demanded.
“Jealous rage,” Baxter said.
“Larkin says you told him to hit you.”
“He sucker punched me!”
“Andy, I know you don’t like him, but you don’t have to go goading him into fights with you. It’s not very mature.”
“Mature! What about him? He’s the one who hit me!”
“I think you two just need to play nice and learn to work together,” Peterman said, nudging her way into the desk chair beside Baxter. “You’re both professional Starfleet officers. Act like it.”
“Will this be acceptable, sir?” the chef asked.
“Perfect,” Rydell replied, surveying the buffet that had been laid out along the back wall of the conference room. In his continuing efforts to get the crew to use the conference room, Rydell had taken to providing a full buffet for all staff meetings. It had meant adding a chef to the crew, but the results were worth it. Even Commander Baird had stopped grumbling about having to leave engineering for meetings. “I’ll be back. Just let everyone start eating when they get here.”
“But the food is fresh,” the chef stammered. “Where are you going?”
“I can’t be seen here yet,” Rydell said. “They’ll start expecting me to be on time for meetings or something.”
Rydell slipped out the rear doors of the conference room just as Conway, Commander Scott Baird, the chief engineer; Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, the science officer; Lieutenant Commander Patricia Hawkins, the security chief; Lieutenant Commander Emily Sullivan, the helm officer; Lieutenant Andrea Carr, the ops officer; and Dr. Beth Aldridge entered the room through the other doors.
“All right! Eats!” Baird said, charging towards the buffet.
“Don’t overdo it, hon,” Sullivan said. “Or you’re sleeping on the couch again.”
“And I’m sick of prescribing antacids,” Aldridge added.
“Shut up, the both of you,” Baird said, piling his plate high with a mountain of mashed potatoes.
“This is a staff meeting?” Conway asked.
“Actually, this is dinner,” Carr said from beside him. “The staff meeting won’t start until the captain gets here.”
“But it’s 1800 now. The meeting’s supposed to be starting.”
“We usually get going about 1820, maybe 1830. Want some coffee? I just found this amazing Vulcan blend in the replicator.”
“I don’t know,” Conway said warily. “Vulcan coffee…”
“Trust me,” Carr said, grabbing his arm and dragging him towards the replicator. “Those guys know how to grow coffee beans with kick. It’ll really sharpen the points on your ears.”
“But I don’t have…”
“Joke. You’re going to need to lighten up to survive around here. We strive for a laid back atmosphere.”
“Laid back? Then what’s Dillon doing here? He’s a pompous, loud-mouthed, pushy, bastard that…” A hand clamped down on Conway’s shoulder and whirled him around.
“That should stop right about there,” Lieutenant Commander Hawkins said grimly.
“She and the commander are close,” Carr whispered in Conway’s ear. “Real close.”
“Got it. Sorry about that.”
Hawkins forced a smile and walked over to the buffet.
“We’ve got sort of a standing policy,” Carr explained, handing Conway a steaming mug of heavenly-smelling coffee. “You can only insult Commander Dillon if he’s here to defend himself. Otherwise, Patricia will remove your spleen with a toothpick.”
“No problem. I can live with that.”
“It’s the only way to live. Cheers.” She tapped her mug against Conway’s and took a sip. He looked down at the black liquid, took another whiff, then drank a bit himself.
“I think I’m in love,” Conway said as he pulled the mug away from his lips. He could still taste the incredible coffee molecules dancing on his tastebuds.
“Careful, sir, we just met,” Carr said, a mischievous grin on her face. She walked away from Conway, headed to the buffet, while he watched her go. So, maybe things weren’t going anywhere with Dr. Shar back on the Explorer. A bright new prospect as suddenly presented herself. Deciding not to waste a second, he followed Carr to the buffet to see if he could muster up something resembling charm.
Several minutes and one deep conversation about bean grinding methods later, Captain Rydell strolled leisurely into the conference room.
“You guys save me any?” he asked jovially.
“Everything except the potatoes,” Sullivan said, patting Baird on the belly. “My beloved wiped those out pretty handily.”
“Thank you,” Baird said from the chair next to her.
“The repast was adequate,” Jaroch said.
“Oh, could you lose the stoic veneer for just one day, Jaroch?” Hawkins snapped. “Travis is not here to appreciate it.”
“Them’s good eatin’,” Jaroch said flatly. “Is that better?”
“Much,” Hawkins said laughing.
“Are we going to have a meeting or what?” Rydell said, taking his seat.
“I’d say that depends on you,” Dr. Aldridge said. “You are the guy in charge of this whole shindig.”
“Oh yeah. I tend to forget that.” Rydell pressed a button on the conference table activating the viewscreen in the room. A pleasant-looking blue-green planet appeared on the screen, lazily rotating along.
“Today’s victim,” Sullivan said.
“Yes, indeedy,” Rydell said. “This is Cenkella, the lone planet of the glorious Cenkella system.”
“And we care because?” Baird asked.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls of all ages. I give you…a first contact,” Rydell said dramatically.
“F***,” Baird said softly.
“What do you care?” Sullivan said. “You never have to go on these things.”
“Jaroch, care to handle the rest of this?” Rydell said.
“Not really, but if I must,” Jaroch said, pulling himself out of his chair and walking up to the viewscreen. “Cenkella is Class M. Population humanoid. Approximately 3 billion. We have been observing the Cenkellans remotely for close to a decade, basically just their communications and efforts to get into space. The planet has a relatively peaceful populous. The last war of any magnitude appears to have occurred at least a century ago.”
“Can we get to the point?” Baird asked uncomfortably. “I need to go.”
“Attack of the killer potatos,” Rydell said.
“Get out of here,” Rydell said. “It’s not like you’re involved in this anyway.”
“I’ve been saying that for five f***ing years,” Baird said as he headed toward the exit.
“Anyone else want to be excused?” Rydell asked.
“Are we making staff meetings optional finally?” Carr asked.
“You’ve developed a real smart mouth since you got that promotion,” Rydell said. “I like it.”
“She was taught by the best,” Sullivan said smiling.
“May I continue?” Jaroch asked.
“Sure. Don’t mind us,” Rydell said.
“I would love to. However, you do not make that easy,” Jaroch replied, then moved right back into his briefing. “Cenkella is Class M, however the gravity is approximately 80% that of standard. Accordingly, we will find that our reflexes are faster and our strength is increased. The civilization is pre-warp; however, sensors indicate they have recently run the first tests to break the warp barrier.”
“So now we run in and introduce ourselves,” Aldridge said.
“That’s about the size of it,” Rydell said. “This would normally be Commander Dillon’s mission, but, since he isn’t here, I’m turning it over to the very quiet Commander Conway. You can talk, you know.”
“I didn’t want to interrupt the party,” Conway said. He took one last sip of his coffee. “Besides, this was a cup to savor.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Carr smile.
“Well, if you’ve finished worshiping caffeine for the moment, you’ve got a mission to plan. Who do you want to take?”
“Lieutenant Commander Hawkins and Dr. Aldridge,” Conway began.
“With all due respect, sir,” Jaroch interrupted. “I should accompany you.”
“Why?” Conway asked. “You science guys already scanned the place, right?”
“Well, yes,” Jaroch replied slowly.
“Then why do I need you?” Conway said.
“He’s got a point, Jaroch,” Rydell said.
“I apologize, sir. I am just used to Commander Dillon bringing me along to explain things to him, such as how to fasten his boots.”
“Jaroch,” Hawkins threatened.
“Yes. Yes. The deal. I know. I will have to wait two weeks to insult the commander.”
“Okay,” Rydell said, returning the meeting’s focus to the matter at hand. “Hawkins and Aldridge. Get yourselves ready. We should be in orbit in…” He looked at Sullivan.
“Twenty minutes,” she said.
“Thanks. Well, if that’s everything…”
“Hold on a second, sir,” Conway said, an idea forming in his mind. “I have a policy on the Explorer of always including one officer on my away teams who doesn’t get the chance to get off the ship that often. I find exposing them to away missions helps them become more well-rounded.”
“Fair enough. You want to take someone else, then?” Rydell asked.
“Lieutenant Carr, if she’s available. I’m sure a first contact mission would be a good experience for her.” Okay, so he didn’t have any such policy, but this was the perfect way to spend some time with Carr.
“Uh huh,” Rydell said, smiling knowingly. “Lieutenant?”
“Fine with me,” Carr said excitedly.
“Okay. Sounds like a plan. Dismissed.”
As the crew filed out of the conference room, Carr pulled Conway aside.
“Thank you,” she said emphatically. “I haven’t been off the ship in weeks.” She pecked him lightly on the cheek. “See you in the transporter room.”
“Great,” Conway said numbly, placing his hand on the spot her lips had touched.
“I wasn’t out of line, was I?” Carr asked concerned. “We’re a bit lax around here.”
“No!” Conway said quickly. “No problem at all. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” Carr smiled and left the conference room. “And hopefully for a while afterwards,” Conway said to himself.
Dr. Janice Browning watched Commander Dillon enter Mirk’s, look around, then sit down alone at a table near the viewports. He ordered a drink from the waiter, then buried his attention in the padd he’d brought in with him.
“You think we should say hi?” Browning asked.
“Huh?” Lieutenant Commander Chris Richards, her fiance and the Explorer’s chief engineer said. His focus was on the mountain of Grubrian yams he was meticulously molding into a model of Browning’s hand.
“Commander Dillon. He’s sitting over there by himself. The poor guy doesn’t know anybody.”
“Isn’t this Counselor Peterman’s job?”
“Chris! Come on.” She bit a last hunk out of the chicken leg on her plate, then dragged Richards to his feet. Dillon didn’t notice their approach.
“Evening, Commander,” Browning said. Dillon looked up at the two newcomers, then quickly back down at his padd.
“Hello, Doctor…” He found Browning’s picture in the files on the padd. “…Browning.” Another check of the padd. “Commander Richards.” He looked back down at the padd, continuing his work.
“Mind if we join you?” Browning asked. Dillon looked back up at them, his face filled with confusion.
“You want to sit down?” Dillon asked.
“That’s the general idea,” Richards said.
“Please do,” Dillon said, waving to the other chairs at the table. This was a first. He couldn’t remember a time when someone had actually asked to sit with him. The Secondprize crew seemed to have more respect for his personal space…or maybe they were just in awe of him. He was never sure which.
“We actually met before,” Browning said. “A few months ago on the Secondprize.”
“We did?” Dillon said, trying to remember.
“During the brawl. You punched Chris here, so I clubbed you with a chair.”
“Oh yeah,” Dillon said brightening. “That’s when Conway got that full nelson on me. I remember.”
“Janice, is this the best thing to be talking about?” Richards whispered.
“If you have any better ideas…”
“I didn’t want to come over here.”
“So, what do you think of Captain Baxter?” Dillon asked, changing the subject abruptly. The question was asked probingly, not like some friendly inquiry.
“We’re good friends,” Richards said, immediately feeling like he was on the defensive. “Why?”
“Just trying to get to know the terrain,” Dillon said.
“But you served with him before,” Browning said.
“We were on the same ship,” Dillon said. “I did not know him in the slightest. I tried not to deal with inventory very often. Waste of time and personnel.”
“Andy would agree with you,” Richards said.
“That’d be a surprise,” Dillon said. “He seemed dedicated to his job.”
“I thought you didn’t know him.”
“No, but I saw him once. That’s a weird story,” Dillon said.
“What story?” Browning and Richards said, leaning in closer.
“Well, shortly before Admiral Neilson had you all sent off on the Aerostar, the Secondprize was being chased by these Borg clowns. They really wanted our security chief, Lieutenant Commander Hawkins,” Dillon explained. Browning couldn’t help but notice the almost wistful tone in Dillon’s voice when he said Hawkins’ name.
“Borg clowns?” Richards asked incredulously.
“Trust me, you don’t want to know,” Dillon said. “Anyway, there we are, trying to fight the Borg and evade their tractor beams when Baxter comes strolling out onto the bridge announcing that it’s inventory day.”
“Did he notice the Borg?” Browning asked.
“I don’t think he cared. Captain Rydell told him to start in his ready room. Right after that, Patricia and I left the ship, but Baxter was still trying to inventory stuff. The captain told him to talk to me and that I was currently being held by the Borg. All Baxter can think to ask is if Rydell’s got a way to reach me. So, Captain Rydell sent him into the conference room and flooded it with anesthezine. Baxter was asleep in there for two weeks before we found him. Right after that, the Aerostar transfer came through. I never had to do inventory with him.” Dillon started laughing as Browning and Richards stared at him blankly.
“Was that funny?” Browning whispered.
“I don’t think so,” Richards replied.
“Well, that was fun,” Dillon said. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to finish correcting Commander Conway’s personnel reviews. The man has no sense of proper Starfleet protocol.”
Dillon stood up and started laughing again.
“Anesthezine gas. What a riot.” He chuckled all the way out of Mirk’s. Browning turned to Richards questioningly.
“Hey, don’t look at me,” Richards said. “I didn’t even want to come over here.”
Down in the depths of the Explorer’s science labs…okay, it wasn’t really depths. They’re only on Deck 14. In any case, in one of the labs, the archaeological team poured over the artifacts they’d uncovered on Bournas Six. The head archaeologist foolishly began reading aloud the words carved on the outside of a golden goblet, intoning a language not heard in the galaxy in eons. As the words fell from his lips, absolutely nothing happened. They’re just words! God, you people are paranoid!
After his chat with Carr, Conway left the conference room and headed straight towards Rydell’s ready room. After witnessing what the Secondprize captain laughingly called a staff meeting, Conway’s brain had been wracked with one nagging question he needed answered before he left the ship.
“Come on in,” Rydell’s voice called after Conway rang the door chime. Conway entered the room and immediately noticed the music. Rydell was sitting in his deck chair bobbing his head to something Conway could only describe as “funky.”
“Sir?” Conway said.
“Have a seat,” Rydell said.
“What is this?”
“Do you like it? It’s Prince. 20th century musical genius. I like to listen to him before sending anybody off on a mission.”
“I prefer 20th century power ballads myself. But I wanted to ask you about something.”
“Sort of,” Conway said. “I just…You…Are you guys even trying anymore?” he finally blurted out. Rydell looked at him a moment.
“Computer, stop music,” Rydell said. The room became quiet as Rydell leaned forward in his chair. Conway suddenly wondered if he’d just gotten himself into a whole world of dookie.
“Trying what?” Rydell asked finally.
“Permission to speak freely, sir,” Conway said. With Captain Baxter, he’d usually just lay everything out there, but Rydell was an unknown quantity. He seemed laid back enough, but who knew how dangerous he’d get when attacked about his command style.
“Always,” Rydell said. “You’ve probably noticed by now that I don’t follow protocol very much.”
“That’s just it. The jokes, the buffets, everything. It’s like being in Starfleet is secondary to you guys. This mission is just a slight detour on your party cruise through the galaxy.”
“I’m going to tell you something no one on this ship knows,” Rydell said, leaning in closer. “And they will never know. Do I make myself clear?”
“Perfectly,” Conway said.
“Do you know who my parents are?”
“Uh…no,” Conway said, confused.
“Fabian and Mabel Rydell.”
“Fabian and Mabel. Fabe and Mabe! I love them. Be-Bop-A-Bolian is one of my favorite albums!” Conway said. “But I thought their last name was Deveraux or something.”
“Stage name,” Rydell said. “Our family name is Rydell. Do you know what they do now?”
“They run that music resort on Bransonis, don’t they?”
“Yep. Mom and Dad thought of that just before I was born and spent most of my childhood making it work. Music is their life…my sisters’ too. You’ve heard of the Rhondellas, I imagine.”
“They’re your sisters?”
“All three of them. I’m the youngest.”
“So why don’t you sing? Do you suck or something?”
“Oh no. I’ve been told I’ve got a great voice,” Rydell said. “Genetics is a wonderful thing. But I wanted to do something different with my life. Prove that the Rydells could do something other than music.”
“Prove to who?”
“Me, I guess,” Rydell replied. “So I joined Starfleet. It was sure a change, and hell, it sounded like fun. See the galaxy. Face the final frontier. You’ve read the recruitment materials. And I was a model officer for a while. Zipped through the academy. Rose through the ranks. But all the while something was nagging at me.”
“What?” Conway asked.
“I wasn’t having any fun. I was hiding so deep inside this officer persona that I was losing me. So, I started loosening up. A couple of practical jokes here, an unauthorized party there, but mainly my whole attitude just relaxed. And then this happened.” Rydell spread his arms indicating the ship. “Starfleet promoted me to captain and gave me the Secondprize. Looking back on it, I think they were trying to both reward me for my abilities, but punish me for my attitude. They thought giving me this crew of wackos would make me beg to get a real ship and crew. Turn me right back into the model officer that graduated the academy.”
“So what happened?” Conway said.
“They screwed up,” Rydell said smiling. “I realized this was exactly the sort of environment I could thrive in. The Secondprize crew needs me. I’m the only captain who’ll let them be themselves, and they let me be myself. I have fun here, which is what I really wanted all along.”
“So why haven’t you told them about your family?” Conway said. “Sounds like you aren’t really that comfortable here.”
“Not at all,” Rydell replied. “But I need to know they trust me when we really have Starfleet business to attend to. As far as they know, I’m a committed Starfleet officer. I believe in Starfleet and the Federation, but I’m not ever going to be their poster boy. I’m too interested in having fun while I’m out here. It beats really working. This is where I belong…for now. I give it another year or two.”
“And then what?” Conway asked.
“Wanna see?” Rydell said almost giddily as he pulled a photo up on his desk computer and turned it to face Conway. It was an aerial view of some kind of village on a planet Conway didn’t recognize. “I guess I’ve got too much of my parents in me,” Rydell explained. “Something’s pulling me towards running my own resort…and this is it. The Suburb.”
“It’s nice,” Conway said, wondering what kind of person would want this. Serving the public sounded like one of the most awful punishments imaginable as far as he was concerned.
“I bought it a year ago. It’s being converted into a plush resort as we speak. When it’s done and I feel like I’ve had enough of this life, I go there.”
“I don’t think you answered my question,” Conway said. “Are you even trying anymore?”
“No. I’m not. We do our missions to the best of our ability, but I’m not out to impress anyone. As long as we do our jobs and my people stay alive, I’m happy. I’ve got more of a responsibility to them than I do to the Federation,” Rydell said. “And I have yet to lose someone under my command. I won’t let that happen.” With those last sentences, Conway could see the stern look of an experienced officer coming out in Rydell. “And you will not let that happen on this mission.”
“No, sir,” Conway said.
“Good,” Rydell said, his smile returning. “Now get your ass to the transporter room and go make friends with some aliens.”
“Yes, sir,” Conway said, rising from his chair. “And thank you for confiding in me. Captain Baxter wouldn’t.”
“And I’d never say stuff like that to Dillon,” Rydell replied. “Just let me offer you a little advice, Conway.”
“There are people for whom this is a job and those for whom this is a life. Figure out what kind of Starfleet officer you are now before your entire life passes you by. If it’s just a job, stay only until you figure out what you really want to do. Then get the hell out. If it’s your life, give it everything you’ve got. We need the best people possible out here. Good luck, Commander.”
“Thank you, sir,” Conway said. “And I’ll remember what you said.”
“You do that,” Rydell said. “Computer resume playback.”
As the sounds of Prince filled the room again, Conway left Rydell to his music and headed to the transporter room.
Commander Dillon walked into Conway’s office feeling rather pleased with himself. He’d only gone down to Mirk’s for a quick drink, but he’d ended up bonding with a couple of Baxter’s officers. Browning and Richards seemed like good people. He made a mental note to suggest to Patricia that they double date should they ever end up on the same starbase or something.
He’d also have to make a note to Conway about the condition of his work environment. His office wasn’t just cluttered; it was a health hazard. Dillon had managed to toss most of the stuff in storage units and have a couple of ensigns move it down to a cargo bay. Maintenance had come it to take care of the fossilized dishes, but they still hadn’t been able to remove, much less identify, one of the stains on the carpet. Even after all of this work, the office still was a mess. Dillon picked his way through the various piles of padds, holocubes, and miniature automobile models and sat down at Conway’s desk.
The man seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with NASCAR. Posters and pictures decorated every wall, and another one of the miniature cars sat on Conway’s desk. Dillon knew of the organization only in passing from his studies of film through history. Cars going around in circles really fast. He just couldn’t see the point.
While lost in thought, he started absently rolling the car on the desk back and forth. The sound of the door chime didn’t even really register in his mind.
“Enter,” he replied automatically. Counselor Peterman entered and saw Dillon playing with the car.
“Commander Conway tends to get possessive about those,” Peterman said. Dillon looked up at her, then realized what he was doing. He quickly rolled the car off the desk onto the floor and picked up his padd.
“What can I do for you…Counselor?” he asked, checking Peterman’s identity on the padd.
“I came to ask you the same question,” Peterman said, stepping lightly through the mess and sitting down in a chair across the desk from Dillon. “I see Conway straightened things up for you.
“Not in the slightest,” Dillon said, showing his annoyance. “I had to do this myself.”
“You moved his stuff?” Peterman asked.
“It’s in storage. It’s fine,” Dillon said. “This is no way for him to set an example to officers under his command, though.”
“Conway’s never been real big on examples,” Peterman said. “But I’m not here about Dave. We need to talk.”
“No offense, but I’ve never seen a counselor in my life. I don’t like them.”
“Would that have anything to do with your father’s profession?” Peterman asked. Dillon’s face darkened at the mention of his father, a famous psychologist.
“You’ve done your homework,” Dillon said. “Very professional. Counselor Webber would have just bear hugged me and left.”
“I aim for a more personal touch,” Peterman said. “Our jobs are really very similar, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“We both try to make sure the crew is at its best and try to look out for the best interests of the captain.”
“I draw the line at sleeping with my captain,” Dillon said. Peterman was silent for a second.
“I guess you’ve done your homework, too.”
“I remember when you two were on the Secondprize. They put you in the quarters next to mine. I could hear you all night,” Dillon said. Peterman blushed a little.
“That’s my Andy-bear,” Peterman said.
“Please,” Dillon said disgusted. “Well, if that’s all, Counselor, I have work to do before my first bridge shift in the morning. I appreciate your visit.” He busied himself in his padds.
“But we haven’t talked about Andy yet,” Peterman said.
“I think we just did,” Dillon replied. “I have nothing to say about it.”
“You slugged him, you pompous bastard!” Peterman shouted, as she grabbed Dillon by the collar of his uniform and pulled him towards her.
“Is this some new therapy technique?” Dillon gasped.
“I’m going to say this once, you play nice with Captain Baxter, or I’m going to flay you alive and drop whatever bloody mass is left into a vat of hot sauce. Got it!” She tossed him back in his chair.
“I am a Starfleet officer,” Dillon said, straightening his uniform and rising from his chair. “And I will behave like one…unlike you. But if you ever pull a stunt like this again, I’m going report your violation of regulation 234, subsection 12 and have you and your psychobabble tossed into the worst rehabilitation colony I can find. Possibly even the one in New Jersey. I hear the food there is awful and the holovision only gets 80 stations. You think about that for a while, missy!”
“Do they have the Puppy Channel?” she spat angrily, just centimeters from his face.
“I doubt it,” Dillon replied, equally spitefully. Peterman mulled this over for a second.
“I could still survive,” she said finally.
“And I bet they don’t have Animal Universe either,” Dillon said. Peterman gasped.
“No!” Dillon said laughing.
“I haven’t done anything yet. Don’t give me a reason to.”
“You won this time, Dillon, but don’t get too comfy. You’re a stranger in a strange land. My land. I own this ship, pal.” Peterman stormed out of the office.
“Do your worst. I’ve dealt with the strangest there is!” Dillon called after her.
“Ha!” he heard her shout, then the doors closed. He sat back down at the desk and couldn’t help but smile. Wow, she was good. He actually felt better, more powerful, more confident. Maybe there was something to this counseling stuff after all.
Peterman would have slammed the door to Baxter’s quarters if there were any to slam. As it was, she just charged in and growled.
“Rough day,” Baxter said, looking up from the padd he was reading on the sofa. Peterman plopped down next to him, arms folded and deep in a sulk.
“I hate him,” Peterman said.
“You talked to Dillon?”
“God, I hate him!”
“Shut up, Andy.”
Dr. Damien Kyle slammed into the wall of the archaeology lab and slumped to the floor as his assistant raced over to help him.
“Are you alright, sir?”
“Fine, Tom,” Dr. Kyle replied, staring at the object that had sent him flying across the lab. “Those are some wheels on those chairs.”
“Yes, sir. You have to be careful in here. Sit gently.”
“I will. Well, now that the danger’s passed, let’s get back to those artifacts.”
Commander Conway walked into the transporter room where Hawkins, Aldridge and Carr were waiting for him. This had to be one of the most perfect away teams he’d ever assembled. Three attractive women. One could protect him, one could heal him, and the third might want to date him. Conway pretty much felt he had his bases covered.
“Rydell to Conway,” the captain’s voice said over the comm system.
“Conway here, sir,” Conway replied.
“Everything all set down there?”
“We’re ready to go,” Conway said, grabbing a phaser out of the supply locker.
“Maybe not,” Rydell said. “We just got a distress signal from a freighter caught in an ion storm. We’re the only ship in range. You want to delay the mission until we handle this little problem?”
“I don’t see any need, sir. That is if Jaroch is confident about the intelligence we have on the Cenkellans.”
Hawkins, Carr, and Aldridge looked at each other, then started chuckling.
“The information is accurate,” Jaroch’s voice said. Hawkins could almost hear the disgust that this newcomer would question him.
“It’d better be,” Conway said, stepping up on the transporter pad beside Carr. “I don’t like surprises.”
“There will not be any,” Jaroch said.
“Don’t take it personally, Jaroch,” Hawkins said. “He doesn’t know you like we do.”
“Then be sure to inform him of his mistake,” Jaroch said.
“You guys be careful down there,” Rydell said. “We’ll be back as soon as we can.”
“Don’t worry about us,” Conway said. “I’m sure we can handle it.”
“Good enough. Bridge out.”
“Energize,” Conway said. Lieutenant Vaughn activated the transporter, sending the away team down to Cenkella. Moments later, the Secondprize zipped away from the planet, heading out of the system and towards the source of the distress call.
The away team materialized inside of the Cenkellan planetary government hall, an impressive structure built of purple marble and stretching at least 80 stories into the air. It was one of the tallest buildings on a planet full of fairly short beings. According to Jaroch’s information, the average Cenkellan was only four and a half feet tall.
Starfleet’s instructions were for the away team to make contact with the planetary leadership immediately and welcome them to the galactic community. To that end, Conway and the others had been beamed into the executive washroom connecting to the Overseer of Cenkella’s office.
“Where’s Hawkins?” Conway asked, looking around the bathroom and seeing only Carr and Aldridge. Suddenly, they heard the sound of running water and a scream. The shower door opened, and Hawkins leapt out drenched.
“Damn automatic shower. Remind me to thank Monica for her excellent transporter skills,” Hawkins grumbled, wringing the liquid out of her uniform.
“Oh, we’re going to make a fabulous first impression,” Aldridge said.
“Unless you’ve got a dryer in that medical pouch of yours, shut up,” Hawkins snapped.
“Come on, people,” Conway said, rubbing his hands together nervously. “We’re professionals on a routine mission.”
“Just how routine is it?” Hawkins asked, noticing Conway’s hands.
“What do you mean?”
“I think she wants to know how many of these you’ve done before,” Carr said. Conway just stared at her blankly.
“That many,” Carr said.
“Oh hell,” Aldridge muttered.
“You’ve never done a first contact?” Hawkins shouted.
“SHHHHH!” everyone said. A moment later, the door opened and a short, reddish skinned alien peeked his head in cautiously. His eyes widened in terror on seeing the four humans in the bathroom.
“We’ll be with you in a minute,” Hawkins snapped, slamming the door shut again.
“At least Dillon’s experienced,” Hawkins continued. “I can’t believe they sent us down here with a complete amateur!”
“Don’t you think you’re a little biased, Patricia?” Carr said.
“What? Just because I’ve gotten to know him?”
“Yeah, we know how you’ve gotten to know him,” Aldridge said. “And I don’t think any of the rest of us want that privilege.”
“Did anyone other than me notice that a Cenkellan just looked in here?” Conway said.
“Yeah. Yeah. We’ll get to him. We’re talking about your lack of first contact experience now,” Hawkins said.
“I think that really doesn’t matter now,” Conway said.
The door burst open revealing eight heavily armed and very unhappy looking Cenkellans.
“Congratulations, sir,” Aldridge said. “You’re very first first contact is officially a disaster.”
“Hey, don’t go blaming this on me!” Conway said. “I’m not the one who alerted them to our presence in the first place…HAWKINS!”
“Me! You leave me out of this! You’re supposed to be the all-knowing commanding officer.”
“Can we stop arguing before they shoot us?” Carr said nervously.
“They aren’t going to shoot us yet,” Conway said. He stepped forward a bit, causing all of the Cenkellans to tense up on their weapons.
“Greetings,” Conway said. “I am Commander David Conway here representing the United Federation of Planets. Sorry to drop in unannounced like this.” He forced a weak smile, trying to appear friendly.
“Bring them out here,” a deep, commanding voice said from out in the main room.
“At least the universal translators have kicked in,” Carr said as the guards pulled them out of the bathroom.
“Goody. Our death sentence will be in English,” Aldridge said.
“Don’t worry about a thing,” Hawkins said, inconspicuously moving towards her phaser. “If there’s a problem, I’ll handle it.”
“What about eight problems?” Conway said, looking at the Cenkellan soldiers.
The Overseer’s office looked much like that of his counterparts on other worlds. Deep purple wood paneling covered the walls, broken up occasionally by portraits of noteworthy Cenkellans or landscapes of vast, churning oceans or towering mountains.
The Overseer himself stood in front of a gigantic desk…of course, just about anything would have been gigantic to him. He couldn’t have been more than three feet tall. He was dapperly dressed in a tailored-double breasted suit that managed to make him look imposing even at his height. Surrounding him were various other planetary officers. The group had obviously been in the middle of a meeting before the away team’s arrival.
Upon seeing Conway and the others, most of the Cenkellans gasped or cringed in fear, but the Overseer stood his ground, carefully appraising the newcomers with his eyes.
“Are you in charge here?” Conway asked.
“I am Grand Overseer Pilkix,” the Overseer said, bowing slightly. “And you are Commander David Conway of the United Federation of Planets.”
“Glad we cleared that up,” Aldridge muttered. Conway shot her a quick glare, then switched back into diplomacy mode.
“We represent a vast federation of worlds throughout this quadrant of the galaxy,” Conway said. “Since you are about to reach out into the stars, we wished to introduce ourselves and welcome you to the galactic community. In time, we hope that you will join our Federation and reap the many benefits it has to offer.” Conway felt fairly pleased with himself. That was pretty much word-for-word from Starfleet’s First Contacts for Dummies manual he found in Dillon’s office.
“Are each of you from different worlds?” the Overseer asked.
“Uh…no, actually,” Conway said. “We’re all humans from Planet Earth, but there are hundreds of worlds in the Federation.”
“Then why are they not here?”
“I just didn’t pick any to come along.”
“So you are biased to those from your own planet.”
“No,” Conway said, not liking the direction this was heading. “This is who was available.”
“So your Federation is biased towards humans? Why should we wish to join such an organization?”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Conway said. “Our ships are crewed by all sorts of beings, but we don’t put a certain number from each world on any one ship. Our ship just happens to have a lot of humans on it. And while we’re at it, I don’t see any differing types of Cenkellans in here. You all look exactly the same to me.”
The Overseer’s eyes narrowed in anger as his advisors each took a step back.
“The same? My spectrum is at least three shades deeper than anyone else in this room.”
“His what?” Conway asked Aldridge. She just shrugged.
“I have tirelessly worked to put together the most comprehensive cross-section of Cenkellans our government has ever seen, and you come down to my planet saying we all look the same!”
“What the hell are you babbling about?” Conway said.
“Babble! Bab…I…kill them!”
“Good one, sir,” Hawkins said, going for her phaser as the soldiers raised their weapons.
“Everybody down!” Conway shouted, grabbing Carr’s arm and diving behind the nearest sofa with her in tow.
“Do you know how much cultural sensitivity training Starfleet’s going to put you through for this?” Carr said.
“Hey! How was I to know he was so sensitive about his personnel policies?” Conway said, pulling his phaser out just as energy bolts from the soldier’s weapons started slamming into the other side of the sofa.
“Congratulations, sir,” Aldridge said from behind the chair she was using as cover. “You’ve accomplished the impossible. I miss Dillon.”
“Just shut up. All of you,” Conway muttered.
“Ahhh!” Carr screamed suddenly.
“Are you hit?” Conway asked frantically.
“No, I must have twisted my ankle in the fall.”
“I’ll get you fixed up,” Conway said. “Doctor, we need you!”
“I’m a little busy right now,” Aldridge said. Meanwhile, Hawkins was laying down a vicious barrage of phaser blasts, preventing the soldiers from getting any closer to the furniture the away team was stashed behind.
“Andrea is hurt. Get over here now! That’s an order!”
“Commander, I’m fine…” Carr said.
“No. You’re injured, and our doctor is going to do her damn job!”
“Are you always this friendly?” Aldridge asked.
“I’m sure the phaser fire is dampening my mood a bit,” Conway snapped. “Now get the hell over here!”
“All right, but if I get shot…” Aldridge said, making her way towards Conway and Carr.
“You aren’t going to get shot,” Conway said.
A blast from one of the soldiers slammed into Aldridge’s side causing her to belt out a sickening wail.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaa….” Aldridge’s screaming trailed off as she stopped to check herself out. She was fine. She looked at the soldier who’d shot her quizzically. He appeared just as confused as she was.
“Don’t stop, you idiot!” the Overseer shouted. “Shoot her again!”
The soldier raised his weapon and fired. Once again, it hit Aldridge but didn’t cause any damage.
“I don’t believe this,” Conway said, a smile spreading across his face.
“What about my ankle?” Carr asked.
“You’re a Starfleet officer. Can’t you handle a little pain?” Conway said irritated. He stood up behind the sofa to face the soldiers. The weapons blast hit his chest…well shone on it anyway. They had as much effect on him as a flashlight.
“Damn their human biology!” the Overseer said. “They’re impervious to our weapons!”
“This is a new one,” Hawkins said, coming out from behind her chair.
“Cosmic karma, Commander,” Conway said. “I’ve earned this.” He looked squarely at the Overseer. “And you guys are in SOOOO much trouble.” With that, he aimed his phaser and started shooting.
Commander Dillon shifted uncomfortably in the Explorer’s command chair, trying to figure out how a ship this new could have seats this lumpy.
“Problem with your seating arrangements, sir?” Lieutenant J’hana, the Explorer’s Andorian security chief asked.
“It’s like sitting on rocks,” Dillon said.
“That would be the friendly fingers’ mode, sir,” J’hana replied. “I believe it’s the third button on your left panel. Between the self destruct and the tri-cobalt launcher activation switches.”
“I was wondering what that one did,” Dillon said, pressing the button. Suddenly, his chair seemed to spring to life underneath him as the friendly fingers’ attempted to knead the tension out of his body. They would have had better luck with a hull plate.
“Thhhisss isss hhurttttinngg mmmeee,” Dillon said as his body shook wildly. Closing his eyes and hoping for the best, Dillon stabbed at the off switch. The chair resumed its stationary existence.
“The captain usually launches three tri-cobalts and activates the self destruct at least once before he manages to turn it off,” J’hana said.
“This thing should not be on the bridge of a starship,” Dillon said, leaping out of the chair and pointing at it accusingly. “This is a Starfleet vessel, not some massage parlor!”
“I should be so lucky,” Lieutenant Ford muttered from the conn.
“Can it…Lieutenant!” Dillon said fiercely as he struggled for Ford’s name.
“Ford. Zachary Ford. I was on the Secondprize,” Ford said. Dillon examined him closely.
“You were? I don’t remember you.”
“I was the gamma shift helm officer!” Ford said exasperated. “You looked at the back of my head for two years.”
“Uh huh,” Dillon said, not entirely sure that he believed this person’s story. Before Dillon could ask for to turn around so he could check the back of his head for anything that looked familiar, the turbolift doors opened pulling his attention away from Ford. Lieutenant Larkin, a former Secondprize officer Dillon actually did remember, stepped out onto the bridge.
“I am here to relieve you, sir,” Larkin said flatly.
“You’re ten minutes early,” Dillon replied, checking the chronometer. “Are your systems functioning properly?”
“Perfectly,” the android replied. “Commander Conway has usually vacated the bridge at this time to acquire his post-breakfast, pre-lunch, mid-morning energizing mug of coffee. This then leads to his post-breakfast, pre-lunch, mid-morning relaxing urination.”
“Please tell me you don’t keep that close an eye on everyone’s bathroom habits,” Dillon said in disgust.
“Only Commander Conway. He is quite…regular.”
“Good for him,” Dillon said. “But I’m regular, too…about my bridge shifts. You may have the conn in ten minutes.” Dillon sat down in the command chair a little too hard, bruising his rear on the not-so-friendly fingers embedded in the seat.
“As you wish,” Larkin said, taking the first officer’s chair beside him. The two sat in silence for a few moments. Finally, Dillon decided he should at least attempt to talk to Larkin. They had served together.
“Adequate,” Larkin replied. Her unblinking stare did not leave the viewscreen.
“You still working operations?”
“Wow. Good for you. And you’re second officer, too. Quite an accomplishment for an android.”
“Commander Data received the position of second officer several years before I did.”
“Oh yeah.” Dillon noted that he was not getting any better at making small talk with his officers. Maybe a bit of nostalgia.
“Remember that Joegonot mission?”
“I assume you mean the mission to Ugilious where I malfunctioned, sabotaged the ship, and attempted to kill Captain Rydell, Commander Baird, Lieutenant Beck, and Lieutenant Hawkins.”
“Yeah,” Dillon said cursing himself inwardly for choosing that one to bring up. “Some mission huh?”
“Sir, I’m detecting a Felpisian battleship approaching on an intercept course.”
“Oh thank God!” Dillon said, leaping back out of the chair and striking his commanding pose, hands on his hips, chin and chest thrust outward. “Go to red alert.”
“Red alert? That ship is no match for us,” J’hana scoffed.
“Larkin, the regulation,” Dillon said, gesturing towards the android.
“Starfleet regulation 274, adopted on Stardate 3495.4. Ships of the Felpisian Autocracy are to be considered mortal threats to Federation vessels. Red alert status should be immediately engaged when encountering one of their ships.”
“That regulation’s over 100 years old!” J’hana said.
“But it is still in force, and we will follow it,” Dillon said.
“But they are Federation members now!”
“Enough!” Dillon shouted. “Any more insubordination, and I’ll have you relieved. Now go to red alert, raise our shields, and lock phasers.”
“Aye, sir,” J’hana said through gritted teeth. On the upside, she at least got to point her weapons at something…even though she most likely wouldn’t be firing. Red alert mode switched into effect, darkening the bridge. Dillon fumbled backwards, attempting to find the command chair in the dark and ended up landing painfully on the floor between the command chair and the counselor’s chair.
“And do something about the lights!”
“Sorry sir,” J’hana replied. “Explorer regulations stipulate ominous bridge lighting during all red alerts. It’s supposed to raise the tension level or some nonsense.”
“Right,” Dillon said, crawling into the command chair. Next shift, he was bringing an extra cushion…and maybe he’d stuff his pants with some of that great toilet paper the Explorer had in its bathrooms. It was quilted and soft enough to…well anyway, it was a hell of a lot softer than the paper on the Secondprize.
“What’s going on?” Captain Baxter demanded, storming out of the turbolift onto the bridge followed by Counselor Peterman. They both looked like they’d just woken up.
“Standard procedure for encountering a Felpisian vessel. Nothing unusual.”
“Sir, the Felpisians are pulling away,” J’hana reported.
“See? Why would they have done that if their intentions were peaceful?” Dillon said.
“Perhaps because we locked every weapon on the ship at them,” J’hana said.
“Why were we at red alert in the first place?” Baxter demanded.
“Larkin,” Dillon said.
“Starfleet regulation 234, adopted on Stardate 3495.4. Ships of the Felpisian Autocracy are to be considered mortal threats to Federation vessels. Red alert status should be immediately engaged when encountering one of their ships.”
“That regulation’s over 100 years old!” Baxter said.
“We had that conversation a couple of minutes ago,” J’hana said. “Please try something new.”
“Get off my bridge, Dillon,” Baxter said.
“Sir, Commander Dillon’s actions are within Starfleet regulations,” Larkin said.
“Fine, you go with him!”
“My shift is due to start in four minutes.”
“Not anymore. Go! Both of you!”
“Aye, sir,” Larkin said, heading towards the turbolift.
“Starfleet will hear about this!” Dillon said defiantly as he stormed off behind Larkin. The turbolift doors closed, removing Dillon and Larkin from the bridge.
“What was that for?” Peterman asked.
“I handle red alerts on this ship,” Baxter said, sinking into his chair and activating the friendly fingers. He sighed and let the chair do its magic.
“So what? You’re going to come up here every time he makes a command decision?” Peterman asked. “Why not just confine him to quarters? Throw him in the brig? I don’t like him either, but jeeze Andy.”
“Not here, Kelly,” Baxter said. “We’re on duty.”
“I’m not. And you’re not supposed to be. Like it or not, you’re going to have to let Dillon take command sometimes.”
“Not this ship, sister!” Baxter said, clutching his armrests possessively. “He’s jealous of me. He’ll destroy us on purpose.”
“That’s the most psychotic, egotistical…”
“You don’t know him!”
“And neither do you. According to Dillon’s psych profile, he’d never do anything to jeopardize his career.”
“He hit me,” Baxter said defensively.
“Only because you said that silly ‘no ranks’ stuff. You know how Starfleet feels about that.”
“Yeah yeah. I deserve anything I get after I say it. I know.”
“Now you sit here and think about your behavior,” Peterman said. “I’m going to go get some breakfast.”
“Could you bring me a bagel?”
“No! You sit here and think. You’re on a diet anyway. No bagel for you!” Peterman left the bridge while Baxter sulked.
“No offense, sir, but she’s mean,” Ford said.
“Oh shut up and fly.”
Meanwhile, down in the archaeological lab, the team of archaeologists picked up on Bournas Six examined their finds. One particularly decorative amulet was drawing their attention. Ringed with gold and silver, the amulet was dominated by a dark burgundy stone in the center, which seemed to glow with its own power. While greedily passing the amulet from one person to the next, the archaeologists dropped it. From then on, the stone no longer glowed. What they couldn’t see was that a minuscule fracture in the rock had released the energy entity trapped inside the gem. It now fled the lab, ascertaining what it could about its new surroundings and the primitive beings occupying those surroundings. And I know what you’re thinking; it’s not one of those pagh wraiths. Can’t a guy have an energy being trapped in some artifact without everyone automatically assuming it’s a pagh wraith? It’s not. Okay. Fine. Now keep reading!
“How’re we doing?” Captain Rydell asked as he stepped out onto the bridge dressed in a bright red Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts, and sandals.
“ETA is twelve hours,” Jaroch reported. “And the ETA on the luau is tomorrow night.”
“Tomorrow? Crap!” Rydell said. “Vaughn said she’d prepared a special lei for me, too.”
“I doubt she was referring to that kind of lei, sir,” Jaroch said.
“Probably not,” Rydell replied smiling. “So what is tonight?”
“Classic or Bolian revival?”
“Bolian, I believe.”
“Damn. I hate dying my skin blue.”
“The price of art, sir,” Jaroch said.
Rydell struck an Elvis pose.
“Thank you. Thank you very much.”
“I don’t think they’re too happy about this, sir,” Lieutenant Commander Hawkins said as she watched the Cenkellan military forces surround the capitol building.
“I never should have let those hostages go,” Conway said irritated.
“Hostages? We don’t take hostages,” Hawkins said. “We’re supposed to be the good guys, remember?”
“Then why am I still here?” the Overseer of Cenkella said from the chair Conway had tied him to.
“Insurance,” Conway said. “Your soldiers and advisors weren’t relevant to us.
“Uh, Commander,” Carr said from the sofa where she had her injured leg stretched out, “Stop it. You’re starting to scare me.”
“Why?” Conway said, pacing the room. “This is going perfectly. They know who we are and that we have the superior firepower!”
“Did I miss something in the first contact manual?” Aldridge said. “I thought the idea was come in, make friends, leave.”
“It was until they started shooting at us!” Conway said, making sure he spat the last words in the Overseer’s face.
“Sorry about him,” Carr said. “He gets cranky without his coffee.”
“We could order take-out,” the Overseer said helpfully.
“Forget it, pal!” Conway said. “I know how this works. They send drugged food or plant surveillance devices or something. No way!”
“This is the office of the Overseer. There are already surveillance devices in place.”
“Damn aliens. Where are they?”
“I’m not sure. I never bothered to ask.”
“Hawkins, find those devices and neutralize them,” Conway ordered. “I will not have our security breached.”
“Sir, I would remind you that we are on a first contact mission,” Aldridge said soothingly. “Say it with me now…first contact.”
“Not anymore. This is now a hostile environment, and our main goal is to contain the situation until the Secondprize returns.”
“Contain it?” Hawkins said, sweeping the room with her tricorder. “We created the damn situation!”
“Would you stop debating me? I figured Dillon would have you all better trained in the chain of command.”
“We’re highly trained to recognize a stupid order when we hear it,” Aldridge replied.
“You understand, don’t you Andrea,” Conway said, moving to the sofa. He sat down next to her and gently took her hand. “We’re in danger here. I’m not going to let anything happen to you, if you listen to me.”
“Dave…can I call you Dave?”
“Dave, you need to calm down a bit and think. We can still fix this. The Overseer’s here and ready to listen to you. Tell him all about the wonderful things the Federation does. Technological exchanges, economic supports, security, festive holidays. We’re a fun group. Show him that. Remember, diplomacy, not terrorism.”
“Diplomacy, not terrorism. Got it,” Conway said, rising and walking over to the Overseer who shrunk down in his chair as much as he could.
Conway did feel a bit on edge for some reason. It was probably the stress. New ship, new crew, his first first contact. It could get to anyone. And Carr was right; he hadn’t had a cup of coffee in hours.
But there was something else. He felt wonderful here. Phasers glanced off of him like nothing. In the lighter gravity, he could run farther, move faster, and lift more without feeling a bit of fatigue. Here he was a superman, a god. And he wanted to enjoy his power…just for a little while. It couldn’t hurt relations that much.
“You’re coming with me,” Conway said, lifting the Overseer and his chair with over his head with one hand and moving towards the office door.
“Wha…where are you taking me? Put me down!”
“Sir!” Hawkins said. “We should stay here. There’s an army out there.”
Conway stopped and turned back to Hawkins, grinning maniacally.
“That’s what I’m hoping for, Commander.”
“Damn self-righteous twit,” Dillon grumbled as he and Larkin’s turbolift descended from the bridge.
“Indeed,” Larkin replied curtly. Suddenly, a flash of light sailed up through the floor of the turbolift, raced through the car, and continued upward out of the lift.
“Did you see that?” Dillon shouted.
“Affirmative,” Larkin said calmly.
“What the hell was it?”
“I do not know.”
“Well, we’d better find out. Computer, change destination. Bridge.” The turbolift shuddered to a halt, then rocketed upwards coming to a stop moments later at the bridge.
As the turbolift doors opened, Dillon saw Baxter leap out of his seat and turn towards them.
“I’m sorry, honey,” Baxter said before he spotted who he was talking to. “You’re right. Can I have my bagel now?”
“I’m not quite ready to accept your apology,” Dillon said marching out onto the bridge. “Don’t call me honey. Of course, I’m right. And I don’t have any bagels.”
“I thought I told you to get out of here!” Baxter said as soon as he realized Peterman wasn’t on the turbolift.
“We witnessed a free-form energy emission traveling in this direction,” Larkin said, exiting the turbolift. “Commander Dillon felt that we should attempt to locate it and determine its source.”
“Sensors haven’t picked up anything,” Lieutenant Ariel Tilleran said from the science console. “Are you sure your optical circuits aren’t malfunctioning?”
“I saw it too,” Dillon said.
“Oh, there’s a reliable corroboration,” Baxter said, sitting back down in his command chair. “I’m not turning this ship upside down because you two thought you saw a firefly.”
“It was not a firefly,” Larkin said. Baxter didn’t respond. Instead, he suddenly sat up ram-rod straight in his chair.
“Not a firefly,” Baxter said flatly.
“Exactly,” Dillon said, storming down in front of the command chair to face Baxter. “There is something on this ship. A force. Probably alien. And these things never turn out well. Statistically, alien intruding forces account for 76 percent of all starship mishaps. Did you know that? 76 percent! We have to take this seriously. That thing could be running around, infiltrating the computers, stealing classified information, damaging the engines, possessing the crew…”
Baxter suddenly rose up into the air, floating five feet above his chair as electricity crackled around his body. As if he was drawing power out of them, the bridge lights and computer screens dimmed.
“YOU ARE ALL MINE!” Baxter bellowed, his voice echoing evilly throughout the bridge.
“Sorry I brought it up,” Dillon said softly.
“Well since my lady cleft me. I’ve hound a clue place to smell. It’s round at the bend of only sweet. Cut-rate to hell.”
“I hate the Bolian version of this,” Lieutenant Commander Sullivan said.
“I would not blame them,” Jaroch said as they watched Captain Rydell gyrate on stage in his flashing white jumpsuit. “They translated this before the perfection of the universal translator. We are now hearing English lyrics translated into Bolian then back into English.”
“Yeah, well they really f***ed it up,” Commander Baird said.
“And I keel so homely, I could spy.”
Conway kicked open the doors of the large wooden doors of the Cenkellan capitol, his enhanced strength knocking them off of their hinges. The masses of soldiers gathered outside drew back both in fear at Conway’s exit from the structure and due to the hostage Conway carried with him.
“Alien intruder,” the head of the Cenkellan military said over a loudspeaker from the safety of his jeep. “You will release the Overseer at once and return to your planet of origin. Any other actions will be taken as a sign of hostility, and we will be forced to respond with extreme force.”
Conway laughed loudly and defiantly.
“You can’t touch me,” he replied. “Feel the might of the Federation!” With his free hand, Conway drew his phaser and vaporized a nearby light pole.
“See,” Conway said. “People of Cenkella, I am Commander David Conway of the United Federation of Planets. We come to generously offer your backwater world a place in our vast union. Join us or face the consequences!”
“Should we go down there?” Lieutenant Carr asked. She had hobbled over to the Overseer’s office window where she, Hawkins, and Aldridge could watch the action unfolding below.
“Are you nuts?” Hawkins said. “He can dig this hole himself.”
“How’s the ankle?” Aldridge asked.
“Better,” Carr replied.
“Yeah, well it’d be perfect if you’d stop twisting it. What’s this? The fourth time this year?”
“It’s not my fault.”
“What the hell was that?” Aldridge demanded, looking back out the window.
“Conway just kicked over some jeep,” Hawkins replied, walking away from the window. “I’m going to start getting ready.”
“Ready? For what?” Carr asked.
“This is all going to end badly. I can just feel it,” Hawkins said, as she pushed the Overseer’s desk towards the door. “I want to be prepared.”
“Good idea,” Aldridge said, moving to help Hawkins. “Keep an eye on things, Andrea.”
“Right…ooh, that’s got to hurt.”
Conway dropped the Overseer and his chair to the concrete with a thud as he turned on the sniper that has blasted him in the back of the head. The Overseer lay there battered and bleeding out of a couple of scrapes.
“HAHAHAHAHA! Your puny weapons cannot harm me!” Conway shouted.
“The Overseer is clear! Fire at will!” General Brakiw, head of the Cenkellan military cried. Several hundred beams slammed into Conway with the force of so many flashlights.
“Foolish!” Conway said, striding forward into the pack of soldiers. He picked them up and tossed them aside like rag dolls as he advanced on the general’s jeep.
“This human is too powerful for us!” Brakiw’s assistant shouted. “We must retreat!”
“Never!” Brakiw bellowed. “No alien monstrosity is going to get the best of me.”
“I’ll show you monstrosity!” Conway said, lifting the front of the general’s jeep into the air.
“Call in the Atomizer!” Brakiw screamed.
“Sir! Are you sure?”
“I don’t see any other option!”
“Calling in the Atomizer!”
As Conway continued shaking the jeep up and down, bouncing it’s occupants around violently, a large truck came around the corner into the square in front of the capitol building. Behind the truck was a trailer with a giant laser cannon mounted on it. The barrel alone was at least ten feet in diameter, and various lights pulsated up and down its length indicating the incredible powers harnessed within.
Conway, spotting the weapon, dropped the jeep and jumped eight feet up in the air, landing on the roof of a nearby troop transport.
“Brought out the heavy artillery, huh?” Conway said confidently. “Come on. Let’s see what you’ve got!”
The Atomizer began to hum growing louder and louder and louder until suddenly a bright white beam of destruction flashed out of it, slamming directly into Conway.
Conway was knocked back for a moment, but the feeling was only like being pushed by a strong wind. Laughing evilly, Conway leapt off of the transport, flying up into the air over the beam and landing a few feet away from it. With one more leap, he was on the Atomizer itself. He tossed the weapon’s operator to the street and began phasering control panels. Seconds later, the Atomizer was a useless smoldering piece of modern art.
“You will submit to the Federation and to me as its representative!” Conway shouted. “I AM YOUR GOD!!!”
Suddenly, something ricocheted off of the Atomizer panel next to him. Conway instinctive ducked. What the hell was that? Conway scanned the crowd and spotted a Cenkellan civilian armed with what looked like an old Earth-style projectile weapon. Bullets! That could be a problem. Conway then noticed the slight pain in his arm. A piece of shrapnel off of the Atomizer had grazed him; he was bleeding. So much for imperviousness.
“They’re vulnerable to bullets!” the civilian shouted!
“To the War Museum,” the still shaky Overseer ordered. “We’ll take care of this menace once and for all!”
The mob of Cenkellans raced off out of the square towards what Conway could only assume was a bountiful source of bullets. Considering his options, Conway decided that running for it was the best idea. Using all the speed Cenkella’s lower gravity would allow him, Conway dashed to the capitol building and ran inside.
“Oh hell,” Carr said softly.
“He coming this way?” Hawkins asked.
“Oh yeah. Real fast.”
“I’m honestly surprised he lasted this long,” Aldridge said.
“All right, let’s get this desk ready to put in front of the door,” Hawkins said. “And check your phaser charges. This is going to be ugly.”
“What are you picking up, Lieutenant?” Larkin asked as she moved over to Lieutenant Tilleran’s science station.
“Nothing,” Tilleran replied in frustration. “The sensors aren’t showing a thing.”
“There is no mention of a vast energy force on the bridge?”
“No. Not a thing.”
“Fascinating. What about your Betazoid senses?” Larkin asked.
“The entity is hard to read, but that’s definitely not the captain.”
“The hovering and crackling ball of energy around him clued me in to that one,” Ford said.
“Commander, shall I open fire?” J’hana asked, her phaser leveled at Baxter.
“Uh…no,” Dillon said, backing away from Baxter. “Let me handle this. Captain Baxter, under Regulation 43, Subparagraph 5, I regret to inform you that I must relieve you of command.”
“SILENCE!” The energy surrounding Baxter began to crackle even more loudly as it grew in intensity.
“Furthermore,” Dillon said, continuing on as if Baxter hadn’t spoken. “Since I suspect that you have been taken over by an alien entity, I must ask that you report to sickbay upon leaving the bridge for a thorough examination. Now then, please stop floating over the command chair, so I can sit down.”
Baxter glared at Dillon. Suddenly, a blast of pure energy lanced out from Baxter’s chest, smacking Dillon across the bridge and slamming him into a wall.
“I do not believe that whatever has occupied the captain’s body cares about regulations,” Larkin said, helping Dillon to his feet.
“Guess not,” Dillon said weakly.
“May I open fire now?” J’hana asked.
“No!” Counselor Peterman cried, running out of the turbolift and tossing the bagel she was bringing to Baxter aside.
“YOU WILL SERVICE ME!” Baxter said.
“Right on time, Counselor. He’s horny,” Ford said.
“That’s enough,” Dillon said, pulling himself together.
“SOMEONE PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!” Baxter shouted, energy leaping from his hands into the various consoles around the bridge.
“Richards to bridge!” the chief engineer’s voice shouted over the comm system.
“What is it?” Dillon said. “We’re really busy right now.”
“Something’s accessing systems all over the ship and draining power!”
“Any idea what?” Dillon asked. Peterman stormed in front of Dillon and pointed at Baxter’s energy links to the ship’s systems. “Oh. We’ll see what we can do. Bridge out.”
“Sir!” J’hana said impatiently.
“Everybody out,” Dillon said.
“What?” Peterman said.
“We’re leaving. Now!” Dillon said, heading towards a turbolift.
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”
“We’ll be right back,” Dillon said. “Don’t go anywhere.”
Dillon, Larkin, Peterman, and J’hana entered one turbolift while Ford, Tilleran, and the ancillary operations officer rushed to the other.
“Do you have a plan, sir?” Larkin asked as the turbolift descended.
“We need to have a meeting,” Dillon said. “Where’s the closest briefing room that’s not near the insane energy being?”
Larkin, Peterman, and J’hana looked at each for a moment.
“The conference center,” they replied in unison.
Minutes later, Dillon, Larkin, J’hana, Peterman, Tilleran, and Ford were joined by Richards and Dr. Browning in the Egyptian Room of the Explorer Conference Center and Banquet Facilities.
“All right,” Dillon said, brushing the sand out of his stone chair and taking a seat. He stopped for a second, shaking his head at the needless decor in this room. Stone walls and hieroglyphics on a Starfleet ship. What was the Federation coming to? The statues of some jackal-headed god that lined the room’s windows were making him uneasy. Weird place.
“Sorry about this, sir,” Richards said. “The Roman Room was being used by the ship’s origami club.”
“Doesn’t this override…never mind. I don’t care,” Dillon said. “We’ll just move on.”
“We’re not killing Andy!” Peterman shouted.
“Who said anything about killing him?” Browning said.
“I know Dillon’s thinking it,” Peterman said.
“Can I get to the plan?” Dillon said.
“You have one?” Larkin asked.
“Yes. I do,” Dillon said. “We’re going to separate the ship.”
“What?” the other officers demanded.
“Lieutenant Larkin, you will take command of the stardrive section. Once we’ve evacuated everyone off the saucer, you are to move the stardrive to a safe distance and keep your weapons locked on us. Ford and Richards will accompany you.”
“What about the rest of us?” Peterman asked.
“I’m getting to that,” Dillon said. “The transporter chief…”
“Lieutenant Hartley,” Peterman added.
“Right. Her. She’ll keep a transporter lock on those of us remaining on the saucer at all time.”
“Very sensible,” Larkin said.
“In addition,” Dillon continued, “we’ll have a shuttle prepped and ready to go in the shuttle bay, and we’ll all be wearing emergency transponder armbands programmed to beam us to that shuttle at the touch of a button.”
“Sensible and paranoid,” J’hana said.
“I like to be prepared,” Dillon said. “Any questions?”
“Yeah. What are we doing to help Andy?” Peterman said.
“Let’s get the ship separated first, then we’ll worry about that,” Dillon said. “Dismissed…except you, Counselor.”
“Oooh. Someone’s in trouble,” Ford said as he walked out.
“What do you want, Dillon?” Peterman asked once the others had left.
“You don’t like me much, and that’s fine. I can’t say I care for you too much either…or Captain Baxter, but I am not going to let him die. As first officer, I have a duty to protect his life at all costs, and I will perform my duty.”
“What if he wasn’t the captain?” Peterman asked. “You’d just kill him, wouldn’t you? You don’t care about Andy; you only care about your damn career!”
Dillon thought for a moment. Would he let Baxter die? Tough question. He’d honestly never lost anyone. Captain Rydell had made sure of that. And more than that, his duty was not only to the captain but to his crew and citizens of the universe in general.
“I would save his life no matter what,” Dillon said. “Just as I’d save any of yours. Listen here, Counselor, I do not lose people. That’s not how the Secondprize operates, and it’s not how the Explorer’s going to operate while I’m on board. We’re going to rescue Captain Baxter. I promise. Now, I need you to get to the shuttle bay and make sure we have an escape route.”
“Yes, sir,” Peterman said. She wasn’t sure if she believed that Dillon would come through or not, but she was confident that he’d try his best. And if he didn’t…well, she had ways of making him suffer.
On her way to the shuttlebay, Peterman was grabbed by Dr. Kyle, the head of the archaeological expedition.
“I know this is a bad time, but we just heard something possessed the captain,” Kyle said.
“I’m afraid so,” Peterman said. “Get to the stardrive as fast as possible.”
Kyle pushed a strange gold and silver amulet with a marble-sized dark burgundy stone mounted in the center into Peterman’s hands. “This may be the cause of it,” he said. “We broke the gem a little while ago by accident. This stone used to glow with some kind of power we couldn’t identify. It may have been an entity of some kind.”
“Which now has Andy in its power. Great,” Peterman said. “So what do I do with this?”
“I have no idea,” Kyle said. “I just thought it might help. Good luck, Counselor.” Kyle rushed away, leaving Peterman with the odd alien artifact.
“Lieutenant Larkin reports all clear,” J’hana said. She, Dillon, Peterman, Tilleran, and Browning had gathered in sickbay to plan their attack on whatever was in Baxter.
“Tell them to begin separation sequence,” Dillon said. “Hopefully, Baxter won’t try to move the saucer at all while they’re doing it.”
“What about the amulet?” Peterman asked.
“I detect nothing unusual about it,” Tilleran said, running her tricorder over the artifact.
“So?” Dillon said. “You couldn’t detect the entity either.”
“Look, it’s an amulet. The inscription says ‘Warning: This Amulet Contains One Insanely Evil Rankol. Do not break gem.’ And the gem is broken,” Tilleran said.
“Well, fix it,” Dillon said.
“Sure. What are the rest of you going to do?”
“I’ve got one idea,” Dillon said, rubbing his hands together. “And it just might work.”
“Or get us all killed,” Peterman said.
“Pizza’s done!” Browning said, emerging from her office with a piping hot pepperoni and mushroom pie.
“Great!” Dillon said. “We’ll eat, then save the captain.”
“Glad we’ve got our priorities straight,” J’hana said, grabbing a slice.
Captain Rydell rolled over in his sleep, trying to block out the noise ripping him violently from his dream.
“Leave me alone,” Rydell muttered.
“What!” Rydell shouted, sitting up angrily.
“Did I wake you, sir?” Lieutenant Commander Sullivan’s voice said sweetly over the comm system.
“What is it, Sullivan? I was very close to making it with four Deltans when you interrupted.”
“Sorry to spoil the orgy, but we just got another call from that freighter. They’re fine.”
“But the storm? They were stranded and being battered.”
“Evidently one of their officers lost a chicken vindaloo in one of the engines. It affected several systems. They just assumed they were in an ion storm and called for help. They’ve got everything under control now, though.”
“I’m so glad they commed,” Rydell said flatly. “Turn us around and head back to Cenkella. Hopefully, the away team will be all set to go when we get there.”
“Anxious to get to our layover on Ansalis, I see.”
“On no other planet in the galaxy are cooking and erotic dance so well meshed,” Rydell said wistfully.
“And on that note, I’ll let you get back to sleep.”
“Thank you, Commander. The beauties await. Rydell out.” Rydell fell back against his pillow and sank back into a blissful slumber.
“Not good! Really not good!” Conway said as he raced into the Overseer’s office.
“We heard,” Hawkins said. “Any ideas, sir?”
“Ritual suicide?” Dr. Aldridge offered helpfully.
“Not me,” Hawkins said. “I’d rather get blown to hell while fighting.”
“That’s lovely,” Carr said.
“Well, let me see if I can bolster our pitiful defenses any,” Hawkins said, heading out to the outer secretary’s office. “Can you lend me a hand, Doc?”
“Might as well make use of it while I can,” Aldridge said, following her. Conway collapsed onto the sofa.
“Oh hell, oh hell, oh hell,” he muttered softly.
“Not exactly what you had in mind?” Carr said, sitting down next to him.
“Being killed on some backwater world? No. Not what I had in mind at all. My death was supposed to be so much more poetic.”
“I was talking about the mission in general,” Carr said. She stared at Conway a moment. “You’ve really planned your own death?”
“Oh yeah,” Conway said. “I’m going to fit an old Earth race car with some big-ass engines and a life support system. Then, when I’m getting too old to live decently, I’m going to drive out of some ship’s shuttlebay and rocket into a sun.”
“Uh huh,” Carr said, forcing a smile. She didn’t know quite how to respond to that.
“But now it’s death by yokels,” Conway said ruefully. “And the worst part is I’ve gotten you killed too. I just wanted you…never mind.”
“What?” Carr asked. “Oh god. That whole thing outside. You were trying to impress me?”
“No!” Conway said. “Well, maybe a little…but that wasn’t all of it. That rampage was for me!”
“You could have just sent some flowers,” Carr said. “Attacking the head of an alien world really wasn’t necessary.”
“Now you tell me,” Conway said, smiling weakly.
“Wait,” Carr said, standing up. “I got something for you.” She disappeared into the outer office then reemerged a minute later with a mug of steaming liquid.
“Coffee!” Conway said excitedly, leaping off the sofa.
“The Cenkellan equivalent of it anyway,” Carr replied, handing him the mug. He took a deep sniff, then a sip.
“Intoxicating,” he said. “I could just kiss you.”
“Then why don’t you?” Carr said, her eyes glinting. Conway gingerly set the mug down and wrapped his arms around Carr.
“…something,” Carr said smiling. “Let’s leave it there.”
“Fine by me.” Conway leaned in slowly, savoring every moment of this. Their lips met, sending an electric rush of adrenaline through his system. So he was going to die. So he never got any where with Dr. Shar on the Explorer. At least this moment, this incredibly wonderful moment, would let him go to his grave knowing that someone had cared about the existence of David Conway.
“I think the Cenkellans…woah!” Hawkins said, walking into the room and seeing Conway and Carr, who quickly ended the kiss. “I guess I should have knocked.”
“What’s going on, Hawkins?” Conway asked.
“Dr. Aldridge just spotted the mob headed back this way. Most of them are just carrying sticks and clubs, but I spotted at least 30 rifles. Who knows how many there really are?”
“This is it,” Conway said, pulling out his phaser and checking the charge. “How are our defenses?”
“I’ve blasted all of the elevators, and the stairwells are blocked with every piece of furniture Aldridge and I could throw down them. I also melted the locks on all doors accessing this floor and booby-trapped the windows as best I could. The outer office is barricaded, and I rigged a primitive explosive out of the coffee machine and the non-dairy creamer, so no refills I’m afraid.”
“My god! You weren’t even gone five minutes!” Conway said in shock.
“I’m Starfleet Security,” Hawkins replied smiling.
“That’s about as prepared as we’re going to get,” Aldridge said, walking into the room. “I’ve got a hypospray loaded with a fast-acting poison should it come to that.” Conway looked around at the three officers gathered with him. So, he’d only known them a short time, but he really didn’t like the idea of having their deaths on his conscience. He had to find a way out of this.
“It won’t come to that,” he replied. “I promise.”
The building suddenly shook slightly, sending a cascade of ceiling plaster raining down on the group.
“I guess they noticed I locked the front door,” Hawkins said. The building shook again with the blast of an explosion.
“I think they found the key,” Carr said.
“Everybody set on stun?” Conway said. “I’m not killing any of these people. It’s not their fault we’re here.”
“Very noble of you,” Carr said.
“That’s one word for it,” Hawkins grumbled.
Over the next several minutes, the group could hear shouts and feel rumblings as things were moved, dropped or blown up. Gradually, the noises were getting louder.
“Uhh…what are those?” Carr said, breaking the tense silence that had gripped the room. She was pointing out of the window, where three flying devices were slowly approaching the building.
“A problem,” Hawkins said. The small vehicles looked like winged convertibles. A large machine gun had been hastily mounted on the hood of each one. “Take cover.” The four officers dove behind whatever cover they could find just before a flurry of bullets crashed into the windows of the room, then bounced off harmlessly. Conway looked up and couldn’t help laughing. He could see the pilots outside cursing and gesturing angrily.
“Nice to see they protect their public officials,” Aldridge said. Conway noticed one of the pilots fumbling for something in the seat beside him. He came up with a nasty looking rocket launcher.
“Sh**!” Conway yelled, ducking back behind the sofa.
Seconds later, the rocket exploded against the side of the building, but the windows still held.
“All right!” Conway said excitedly upon seeing the windows intact. Then, one by one, each window fell out of its frame and plummeted to the street below.
“Great windows; not so great building,” Hawkins said.
“Everybody back down!” Conway said just before another storm of bullets raged at them, this time ripping the room up. Then, after what seemed like an eternity of bombardment, the shooting stopped.
“Did they run out of bullets?” Carr asked. In response, the door of the room was blasted open by an explosion.
“Incoming!” Hawkins shouted, raising her phaser as Aldridge and Carr did the same.
“WAIT!” Conway screamed. Cenkellans began pouring into the room brandishing rifles.
“WE SURRENDER!” Conway shouted at the top of his lungs, raising his hands into the air. The Cenkellans glared at him, pointing their weapons at his head. “I said, we surrender!
“Do not fire!” a familiar voice said from outside of the room. A moment later, the Overseer entered followed by his advisors and General Brakiw.
“We give up,” Conway said to him. The Overseer studied him for a moment as the other Cenkellans grabbed Aldridge, Hawkins, and Carr.
“Why should I let you live? You have attacked our world, destroyed our property…”
“But I haven’t taken any lives,” Conway said.
“That is true, sir,” Brakiw said.
“You will surrender unconditionally?” the Overseer said.
“We already did,” Conway replied.
“Very well. We will discuss terms.”
“Thank you, Overseer. I’m sure our discussion will be mutually beneficial,” Conway said. He stole a glance over at Carr; she was smiling. That was all the vindication of his actions that he needed.
Dillon, Peterman, J’hana, and Browning stepped cautiously out onto the bridge carrying the few items Dillon had needed for his plan.
“This is ridiculous,” J’hana said.
“We don’t know that yet,” Dillon said.
“I am an excellent guesser,” J’hana replied.
“Just be quiet and cover me,” Dillon said, hefting the long metal pole he’d brought with him.
“YOU HAVE RETURNED,” Baxter said, floating around to face them.
“Yeah. Sorry about that,” Dillon said. “Ship’s business.”
“THIS IS NOW MY SHIP. ALL BUSINESS IS MY BUSINESS.”
“WHY HAVE YOU SEPARATED THE SHIP?”
“Uh oh,” Peterman whispered. “I think it may have access to Andy’s knowledge.”
“I HAVE ALL KNOWLEDGE.”
“Where would you like this?” Browning asked, carrying a small, force field container.
“Just over there,” Dillon said, pointing to a spot by the command chair.
“Great,” Browning said, nervously watching Baxter as she moved beneath him and set the container down.
“WHAT IS THIS?”
“I thought you had all knowledge,” J’hana said.
“I DO. JUST NOT ALL AT ONCE.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Dillon said, jamming the metal pole into the container. The pole was just long enough to reach up to the level Baxter was floating at. “I’m just sprucing the place up.”
“IS THIS ART?”
“Yes! It is!” Dillon said.
“YOUR EYE FOR DESIGN IS PATHETIC. THE LINES ARE BORING. AND THE HUM OF THE FORCE FIELD INTERRUPTS ANY ATTEMPT AT THOUGHTFUL CONTEMPLATION OF YOUR WORK.”
“Thanks for the review,” Dillon said insulted. He looked down at the “work.” So it was just a metal pole in a container. Surely it looked nicer than Baxter said. Wait. Why did he care? He was building a trap here. Forget it and move on.
“Is everyone ready?” Dillon asked.
“To get rid of you,” Dillon shouted, tossing the pole at Baxter. It slammed into him, sending an arc of electricity down the pole and into the container…which promptly exploded.
“Damn it!” Dillon shouted.
“WHAT WAS THAT SUPPOSED TO DO?”
“Trap you,” Dillon said. “You’re electricity, so I figured I’d use a big conducting rod and pull you into the container.
“HMM. NICE IDEA.”
“Yeah, but it didn’t work.”
“SORRY ABOUT THAT. WELL, NOW THAT WE’VE CLEARED THAT UP, YOU ARE ALL MY SLAVES AND WILL SERVE ME ABOARD THIS VESSEL.”
Tilleran suddenly raced out of the turbolift carrying the amulet.
“I think I fixed it!” she shouted happily.
“Then use it,” Peterman said.
“Uh…sure,” Tilleran said, approaching Baxter with the amulet extended towards him. “I order you to get into the gem.”
“GET THAT AWAY FROM ME!” Baxter shouted. The energy of the entity was visibly being pulled toward the amulet, but not very far.
“Move closer,” Peterman, Dillon, Browning, and J’hana shouted. Tilleran stepped right next to Baxter. The energy was still leaning towards the amulet, but none was going into the gem.
“I AM TOO DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN THIS CREATURE FOR THAT TO WORK NOW! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
“You don’t have to be so damn happy about it,” Peterman said angrily.
“BOW DOWN BEFORE ME!”
“Can we get back to you on that?” Dillon asked. “We need to…do…something.”
“I WASN’T FINISHED GLOATING.”
“Sorry. We’ll be right back. I promise.”
“I WAS GETTING ON A ROLL.”
“I know. We’ll be properly scared prisoners when we get back.”
“OKAY. GO. BUT HURRY.”
“No problem,” Dillon said, running into Baxter’s ready room followed by Browning, Tilleran, Peterman, and J’hana.
“This is going well,” Browning said once the doors had closed.
“You want me to try talking to him?” Peterman asked.
“He does not seem susceptible to counseling,” J’hana said.
“I could try,” Peterman said.
“Richards to Dillon,” the comm system suddenly barked.
“Richards! Where are you?” Dillon demanded.
“The saucer engine room,” Richards replied. “Baxter’s accessing the engines, weapons, shields, and prefix codes. If we don’t stop him, he’ll be able to shut down the stardrive section from here and blast them to scrap.”
“You were supposed to be on the stardrive!” Dillon said.
“Can you yell at me after you solve the crisis?” Richards said.
“I guess, but you’ve got one hell of a talking to coming, Mister!”
“What are we going to do?” Peterman asked.
“We may have to kill him,” J’hana said. “Before he can destroy us all.”
“What about the amulet?” Tilleran asked. “It was working a little bit.”
“But not enough. The creature is too deep inside of him,” Dillon said. He thought for a moment. “Richards, this ship’s got a detachable bridge module, right?”
“All galaxy class ships do,” Richards said.
“Great. Prepare to detach the bridge.”
“You can’t do that!” Richards shouted.
“It will cut Baxter off from the ship’s systems, right?”
“Yeah, but you’d only have ten minutes of life support…if that.”
“Just start making preparations,” Dillon ordered.
“Yes sir,” Richards said unhappily.
“Give me that amulet,” Dillon said, taking the artifact from Tilleran. He took out his phaser and, after changing the beam setting, fired a small blast at the mounting holding the gem, releasing it from the rest of the amulet. “I’m about to try something a little crazy.”
“And that’s a change?” J’hana said.
“I need two people’s help,” Dillon said, ignoring her. “This will either save Captain Baxter or result in the deaths of those remaining on the bridge.”
“I’ll stay,” J’hana said.
“You haven’t heard the plan yet.”
“I do not care. This is a chance at an honorable death while trying to save my captain!”
“You sound far too excited about this,” Dillon said.
“It’s her way,” Browning said.
“I’m staying too,” Peterman said. “You two are not facing Andy down alone.”
“Fine,” Dillon said. “Richards, beam three EVA suits up here, beam Tilleran and Browning out of here, then detach the bridge.”
“I’m on it,” Richards said. “But let me state for the record that I do not like this idea.”
“Noted,” Dillon said as he watched the EVA suits materialize and Browning and Tilleran vanish. He, J’hana, and Peterman quickly scrambled into the protective suits. Moments later, they felt the latches connecting the bridge to the rest of the ship open. Out of the ready room window, they could see the saucer sinking away from them.
“Activate magnetic boots,” Dillon said, pressing the controls. With the saucer gone, all bridge systems would be inactive, including artificial gravity. He and J’hana forced open the ready room door, then all three of them walked out onto the bridge.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!” Baxter roared.
“Taken you down a peg, buddy,” Peterman said. “You can’t just expect us to roll over and become your slaves.”
“BRING ME BACK MY SHIP!”
“Oh no. It’s time for your medicine,” Dillon said. “Get him!” Dillon, J’hana, and Peterman detached from the deck, floating up into the air and grabbing Baxter. J’hana latched onto his legs, while Dillon and Peterman each took an arm. Blasts of energy cascaded around their protective suits, but they seemed to be holding.
“Open wide,” Peterman said, forcing Baxter’s mouth open.
“And eat up!” Dillon said, jamming the amulet gem down Baxter’s throat. Baxter roared again, kicking Dillon, Peterman, and J’hana off of him in his fury. The energy surrounding him began to swirl wildly, gradually pulling in closer and closer to Baxter until it finally spiraled into his mouth like water going down a drain.
Then all was silent.
“Unnh. What happened?” Baxter said weakly, his voice no longer echoing.
“Andy!” Peterman cried, floating back over to him.
“You were possessed by a hostile alien force, sir,” Dillon said.
“A what? Where is it now?”
“Still inside you, but it will be coming out eventually,” J’hana said.
“I don’t think I like the sound of that,” Baxter said. “What happened to the gravity? Is the ship all right?”
“We’re fine,” Peterman said.
“Yes. I’m happy to return all three pieces of it to you,” Dillon said.
“Captain’s log. Stardate 52690.5. We have returned to Cenkella and retrieved our away team after a bit of haggling with the Cenkellan government. The situation here is certainly…different than it was when we left. But I’m happy to report that the prime purpose of first contact has been fulfilled; we have established a relationship with the Cenkellans.”
Commander Conway shifted nervously in the chair across from Rydell as Rydell looked over the padd detailing the “agreement” with the Cenkellans. Rydell’s face was expressionless as he set the padd down on the desk. Finally, Rydell couldn’t hold it in anymore; he put his head in his hands and started laughing, the sound reverberating throughout Rydell’s ready room. Conway wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not.
“That’s some treaty you got there,” Rydell said finally.
“They kind of had me over a barrel,” Conway replied.
“I can see that. Two billion of their monetary units a year in tribute. All the steak they can eat. Starship rides around the solar system. And that’s just the start of the list.”
“The Federation Council is going to be pissed, huh?”
“It’ll be good for them,” Rydell said, leaning back in his chair. “They’re too used to winning.”
“But it won’t be so good for me. As soon as they read our reports, I’ll be lucky to be sweeping trash up at the fleet museum.”
“Why?” Rydell asked. “You did what you had to do to protect your crew and save the mission.”
“But I attacked…”
“Shhh,” Rydell said quickly. “They don’t have to know everything.”
“You’re going to lie to Starfleet?”
“No. I’m just giving them the abridged version. They’re busy folks over there.”
“Is this common procedure here?” Conway asked as Rydell started judiciously editing Conway’s report.
“Standard procedure, my friend,” Rydell said smiling. “Completely standard.”
Conway stepped out of Rydell’s ready room feeling a bit confused about what had just transpired. Rydell was going to stick his neck out to save the career of an officer he’d just met. At this same point in his relationship with Captain Baxter, Baxter would have been thrilled to send him to the nearest Federation penal colony. Of course, at that point in his relationship with Baxter, they were trapped in the Delta Quadrant, so a penal colony was sort of out of the question. Also, Conway would have been just as happy to leave Baxter in some festering cell. But Rydell was a completely different story. The guy was just…mellow. Very mellow. Nothing phased him. As long as he had his ship and crew, life was good. Conway wasn’t about to start complaining, mind you. Rydell had very likely saved him from a transfer to one of the worst jobs Starfleet had to offer.
“Rough meeting?” Carr’s voice said from beside him, jolting Conway out of his thoughts.
“Odd,” Conway said simply.
“Par for the course,” Carr said, wrapping her arm around his and dragging him towards the turbolift. “Let’s go celebrate.”
“Celebrate? What’s to celebrate?”
“Our safe return to the ship. What else?” Carr replied.
A couple of minutes later, they walked into Seven Backward and spotted Lieutenant Commander Sullivan and Commander Baird seated at a table by the window. Before they could make a move in Sullivan and Baird’s direction, Conway and Carr were intercepted by one of Seven Backward’s new wait-staff.
“May I get you a table?” the waiter asked, pushing up the strange-shaped hat that had slid down in front of his eyes.
“We’re going to sit with them,” Carr said, pointing over at Baird and Sullivan.
“As you wish. Do you have any problems I could listen to?”
“No!” Carr said angrily. “Just bring us two Gresnian coffees.”
“As you wish.” The waiter shuffled over to the bar, keeping on hand on his flat hat so it wouldn’t slide off anywhere.
“This place has gotten so obnoxious since Trinian left,” Carr said as she sat down next to Emily Sullivan.
“It’s that f***ing Guinanco,” Baird said. “All of their joints are like this. Evidently the Enterprise crew found this relaxing, so their bartender started a f***ing chain.”
“Figures they’d be behind this,” Carr said.
“Bunch of freaks,” Baird muttered.
The waiter delivered Carr and Baird’s coffee and shuffled off again.
“So, sounds like you guys had a fun trip,” Sullivan said.
“Depends on if your definition of fun is being threatened at gunpoint,” Conway replied. “It wasn’t how I wanted to go out.”
“Tell them how you want to go out,” Carr said.
“Uh…no. I don’t think…”
“He’s going to drive a race car into a sun,” Carr said.
“What kind?” Baird asked.
“NASCAR,” Conway said.
“Cool…not as cool as mine, but cool.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve got your death planned,” Sullivan said.
“Absolutely,” Baird replied, leaning in towards the group. “You know how time’s supposed to stop as you plummet into a black hole, right?”
“Yeah. Relativistic forces will make time slow down for you until it basically stops,” Carr said. “You’ll be stuck in your last moment forever.”
“Right,” Baird said. “So I’m going to get a ship and fly it into a black hole.”
“What’s the point?” Sullivan said.
“That’s the best part. I’m going to be having sex at the time. Then, just as time stops…WHAMMO! Eternal orgasm. Cool Righteous Death!”
“Cool righteous death?” Sullivan said.
“But you won’t be dead.”
“Might as well be. I’m not coming back from it, am I?”
“He’s got a point,” Conway said.
“What if I don’t want to die having sex with you?” Sullivan asked.
“Who said it would be with you?” Baird said. Sullivan quickly smacked him upside the head.
“Excuse me, I need to go kill him now,” Sullivan said, standing up and pulling Baird out his chair.
“So much for cool righteous death,” Conway said.
“Good night, you two,” Carr said. “Try not to hurt him too badly, Emily.”
“She’s the one who needs to be worrying,” Baird said, walking away with his wife.
“They’re such a cute couple,” Carr said once they’d left.
“Cute? Deranged is more what I was thinking.”
“You say potato…”
Conway laughed weakly and took another drink of his coffee. He had to hand it to Carr; she sure knew a good blend of the bean of life when she tasted it.
“You did the right thing down there, you know.”
“I almost got us all killed.”
“It was a tough situation, and things got out of hand. You brought us all back alive, though. That’s what’s important in the end.” She kissed him lightly on the forehead. “Thank you.”
“Thank you,” Conway said. She forgave him! And he still had a week and a half to spend with her. Sometimes life just put everything you wanted right in your lap.
“Well, I’d better run,” Carr said, standing up.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
“Didn’t I tell you? My leave starts tomorrow. We’re meeting a transport in the morning. I need to get some rest before I head off to Raisa for the next two weeks.”
“I know. Isn’t it great? It’s been fun, Dave. Call me.” She gave him a quick hug and raced out of the lounge.
“But…” How could this have happened? Everything was perfect. It was all just waiting for him. Now…
“Can I get you something else, sir?” the waiter asked. Conway glared at him for a second.
“Sit your ass down and start listening,” Conway said finally. “You’ve got a long night ahead.”
“Captain’s log. Stardate 52690.5. We have reassembled the Explorer and are resuming our course to Starbase 195 so we can finally get rid of the damned archaeologists who caused this problem in the first place. After much straining and a large portion of Dr. Browning’s supply of laxatives, I have been able to return the offending Rankol to Dr. Kyle and his team. They assure me that the Rankol incident was a one in a billion freak occurrence, but, just to be safe, I’ve asked J’hana to assign a heavily armed security detail to monitor their work for the remainder of our trip.
Meanwhile, I am forced to accept the fact that I’m going to have to deal with Commander Dillon at some point. The annoying part is I can’t think of one thing to yell at him about. His actions kept the crew out of danger and saved me from alien possession. Cocky bastard. He did things right on purpose!”
Commander Dillon was sitting in Conway’s office putting his finishing touches on his report to Starfleet about the Rankol incident when his door chime sounded.
“Computer, cross reference the footnotes with the appropriate regulations and file in triplicate for my approval.”
“Acknowledged,” the computer replied as the door chime sounded again.
“Enter,” Dillon said as he set the padd with his report on it aside. Counselor Peterman entered followed by Captain Baxter.
“Andy has something he’d like to say to you,” Peterman said. “Andy?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t let you command the ship,” Baxter mumbled.
“Very good, Andy. Now, Travis, is there anything you’d like to say?” Peterman asked.
“Apology accepted,” Dillon said. “Thank you.”
“I meant about hitting him.”
“What about it?” Dillon asked.
“Apologize, dammit!” Peterman said, slamming her hands down on Dillon’s desk.
“I’m sorry!” Dillon exclaimed, reeling back fearfully.
“Very good, Travis. Don’t you both feel better?”
“I will when we get to bed,” Baxter said.
“Go wait for me. I want to talk to Commander Dillon for a second,” Peterman said.
“I won’t be long. I promise,” Peterman said, giving Baxter a deep kiss that made Dillon cringe.
“I’ll be waiting,” Baxter said, rushing out of the office.
“Nothing like a little positive reinforcement to keep the troops in line,” Peterman said smiling.
“Obviously,” Dillon said. “Now was there something I can help you with?”
“I wanted…needed to…I’m sorry.”
“The other day… That argument… Look, you really came through when you needed to.”
“Of course I did,” Dillon said. “And while I found the argument technique to be an odd style of counseling, but it seemed to work.”
“Winning that argument with you gave me the boost I needed to handle this ship. Thank you for that.” Dillon picked up his padd and moved towards the door. “I’m going to go grab a late dinner. We can talk more later.”
“You didn’t win!” Peterman said angrily. Here she was trying to apologize, and Dillon had the gall to say they didn’t really fight…and that he won their non-existent argument.
“Counselor, my confidence level is fine. We don’t need to argue anymore. Thanks, though.” Dillon left the office, leaving Peterman stewing furiously.
Baxter could hear the doors whoosh open and closed as Peterman entered his quarters.
“I’m in the bedroom, honey,” he said. One of her boots sailed into the room, smacking into the wall above his head. Peterman soon followed it, storming in and plopping down on the bed.
“I hate him!”
“The apology didn’t go well?” Baxter asked.
“God, I hate him!”
“I told you so.”
“Shut up, Andy!”